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Disintegration: Poem for Eva Hesse

Knotting the ends

Compulsive winding, bandaging
or what am I worth
and also why don’t you leave me alone when I am doing these things?
Tying up loose ends here she wrote.
She kept on picking threads from the floor and knotting the ends.
Two days of working on some dumb thing she wrote.
Unable to pin-point belief wrapped around a head.
She was always doing it in white and knotting the ends and wrapping the head.
The tacked on quality makes them seem the same and also the fragile image of her sex.
Why can’t you just leave me alone.
What am I worth she wrote.
There is a hint of circular motion from which latex fingers protrude.


             For all of Hesse’s determined testing and experimentation with materialsshe knew latex was not a permanent substance. Sans I, Sans III, and Stratum have,at this writing less than seven years later, already disintegrated. Eva Hesse, Lucy Lippard



Sans/ fog

It seems to stand between touch and the absence of touch
to soften at its hardest edge and melt at the point of greatest definition
marking a grid of liquid between the deck at my feet (clear, vivid)
and the trees in the distance (blurry, gone)
the substance of trying to think about the material substance of the physical world.
it was made by laying cheesecloth on plastic
holding the squares of air through the metal grommets stuck into the latex
as the branches hold what one faces in place.


Sans/ fog

Soft and apparently soft sculpture
across the floor, across the field, across the hands lying across the book
made in a rather hasty manner
as the distances increase and the interstices get smaller and the group splits up
and no one can see the other it is so dense
and the pages of the book are so dense I can’t understand what is written
when it writes itself wet on my face I wipe it off
in a hasty manner not wanting to be touched.


       It would, of course, be a mistake to see Hesse as consciously anthropomorphizing her work.She took great pains to erase such references. [Yet there is] a profound identificationbetween the artist and her materials, her forms.


If there’s no human hand

If there’s no human hand in it
no mark of the irregular
if there’s only the technological movement of perfect form
if there’s no wrestling of how I can’t stand
the projected lights from the helicopter
if there’s no error in the erratic movements
just the programmed float of letters across the screen.
If there’s no human hand where’s the toll of it
the flu and collapsing lungs of it
where’s the plexiglass skin hanging from the wall.

No symbol

Ideally a bag remains a bag and not an internal organ.
It is not garish and everything will go smoothly given certain conditions.
Or with hoses coming out of them and against the wall.
Nothing with a suggestive twist and nothing in the past
where misery takes over and is more than eleven feet long.
You belong in place. These other things can be shoved about
or even with the proper crating shipped to Germany.
If it’s divorced from the background she still can’t stand the word.


I don’t want to keep a diary
or know what I’m thinking.
The complete blank on the left side makes me uneasy.
You can’t just say nude if there’s no human hand in it.
I didn’t want you to come with me
but keep your distance. But of course we are meant to be shaken up
so we come. How we wish we could get by without saying anything at all
but then it doesn’t matter it’s in the way she leans into it
or pulls the wire off the wall. It’s too murky for my taste.
I’d write it all down in a second.



Fetish fog for Eva Hesse

Fetishes lying under the bed with the sheets dragging on the floor.
No blau sky. How about if it could go and come at the same time
pulling tight with cords as well.

I can’t figure out how to figure out how to do it.
I figure it’ll take a lifetime of complete misery.
Yet she threads a cord through a bit of hosing and it seems
a plausible answer to a myriad of questions.

A slap of white across the tabletop could be the cloth for dinner
could be the rectangle of light reflected from the window
could be the open book from which I was reading
could be something more akin to sound and the hand coming down hard.

One cup calmly. And later with a hose.
One coffee with milk. And later with a hose.
One coffee with calm white milk to go. And later.

My skin is raw. The metaphor is absent from my skin.
One can’t see the point of a sunny disposition.
When she pokes grommets through the latex you can almost feel them
from off the page and as far away as Berlin which isn’t a metaphor either.



Repetition #19 (1967)

Overlapping the edges of clay onto the curve of the container
the large ones are in addition secretive.
I work only in my corner.

     in this container I’d put that year when I couldn’t stand it

Wouldn’t a discovery of material (latex/ rubber) change
the direction of the work entirely.
A rubbing, a drawing, a bit of ribbing in the corner.

     it was the year I found it by accident

They’ve lost their original syrupy surface and have darkened to
a deep brown. This is a color I’d like to avoid.
She said she liked crawling there because it smelled of disintegration.

     the other year to choose would be the one before the last

Other tendencies were held in abeyance or remembered later.
It’s painted on in layers as it ages. As you can tell from the rings the naturalist
is fond of telling. The year her mother died.

     intensity turns out to accumulate years day by day

It is a kinetic use of materials almost like a house. The design includes paper.
Two working drawings have worked me into the corner. They are roughly sewed
into the bedroom upstairs.

     It separated out nicely into segments

Secretly she always meant to. It was a work in progress.
As though it could take whatever life had in store. The bins were lined up.
The basic unit was what seemed to be solid tubing.

     how many more months left to do it



Working with conditions

Approximately is the material form of ok I’ll do it with conditions.
They are not in the way and everything promises to be a smooth ride.
If the first version is a humble and flexible form.
The symbolism of it is obvious.
Where were you when I was approximately out of my fucking mind.
Graceful is the ability to bend as trees do it.
It expands across a room in great calm.
If one uses the language of another as an approximation of one’s own.
What’s a conditional phrase.
What’s a fish out of water.
What am I doing here and so forth.
If you mean approximately what you say.
Will you turn off the faucet.
All love’s conditional is one way of explaining.
The surfaces have a detached presence.
I wish the wind would stop blowing.
Others working in the same medium found the conditions unbearable.
Her condition continued to deteriorate despite the double space the subject occupies.
What she found on the street was a clearer picture of how to do it.



Finding the form

Pulling in several directions at once like lying on the hard floor
her knees to her chest and thinks about it.
To think about undoing all that has been done.
They are so young.
When is it stopped.
I’d like to come out of focus.

You can only see them through binoculars in the early morning or late day it was a form
a vehicle I don’t think it had sexual it wasn’t symbolic I mean the overlay wasn’t you

Pushing back the curtain left her exposed to the audience
performing an unusual movement with her knees to her chest.
To put a shape on the shapeless.
They are so eager.
When wasn’t it over.
I’d cross out all stage directions.

When the day is overcast you can hardly see it was an encounter a fixity I don’t think it had sexual meanings you don’t think was it through the binoculars out of focus wasn’t you




Materiality (in this case) dependent on the ridges in the hills
which mark the in’s and out’s of moist air
which seems to rise up in a monumental arc (in this case)
like an historical explanation for what’s in and what’s out.

The material properties allow what we were after.
To be after locates both time and desire.
I walked in after he did.
I was after him, meaning in pursuit
in a weather system of sorts.

Disintegration of materials
including one’s own
blood sugar in the extreme
one’s own
including letters in the mail
each piece of advice
lemons in warm water
refusing any later
unable to speak in a straightforward fashion
the body and of course the body
with a broken foot in an ordinary chair.



Q as the letter for death


Too early and by means of the noxious fumes which were her life.
Q knows to use whatever’s close at hand.
A wistful quality as part of her.
Will-o-the-wisp dissembles a light
she follows into the dark.


Q has that tail sticking out.
No wonder the balloon goes bust.
Also the presence of wind, some bit of overhang
or a pump into the wheel as it were.
It breaks perfection.
It is the pinpoint out of which we leak.
It’s the kickstand holding up the O, a kick in the pants.



Disintegration of materials

disintegration of materials    frustration of working to work with someone else

to work out how to    to keep the frame of reference to keep from

disintegrating into an idea            an idea whose idea is one becoming

one’s own work                what is it this work of one’s own who worked it out

losing a standpoint from which to put forth one’s own        work is it

is it one’s own        who moved            of materials in the workspace

provided for            forever, lose, panic                    it’s yours

anticipated what you were          =to say                        subtitled in a text

materials, chemistry, surface, pressure, self, automatic, shy

discoloring in the time between          after you’d already said it     historical sense

non-work                nothing of one’s self                    test studies for the one you work with

Martha Ronk is the author of eleven books of poetry, most recently a book on photographs, Ocular Proof. Her Transfer of Qualities was longlisted for the National Book Award and named an NPR notable book in 2013 (both Omnidawn). Vertigo (Coffee House), influenced by W. G. Sebald’s work of the same name, was selected for the 2007 National Poetry Series. Her forthcoming book from Omnidawn is Silences.